Is Running Good or Bad for Back Pain

running back diet

Is Running Good or Bad for Back Pain?

About the Author:

Martin Booe

Martin Booe is a health, fitness and wellness writer who lives in Los Angeles. He is currently collaborating on a book about digital addiction to be published in the UK this December.

Even though running is one of the simplest forms of exercise, each person’s body responds differently to it. Running is a high-impact exercise. However, because of differences in stride, weight and coordination, running can be either good or bad for back pain, depending on the individual. If your back pain is chronic or intense, talk to your physician.

Causes of Back Pain

One factor that makes the relationship between running and back pain complex is that there are many causes of back pain. Several structural problems are often the culprits, including bulging or ruptured disks, sciatica, arthritis, skeletal irregularities and osteoporosis. These may only be fixable by surgery, if at all. However, lifestyle risk factors that can cause back pain include obesity, sedentary work and stress.

How Running Can Cause Back Pain

Running is a high-impact exercise. The faster you run, the harder your feet hit the ground. The repetitive jarring can be very hard on the joints and the spine. Studies such as the one published in the September 1986 issue of the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” found that the spine shrank by several millimeters after a 6 km run, and the shrinkage was directly proportionate to running speed. Although the relationship of spinal shrinkage to spine pain isn’t fully known, those results show how much stress running can put on the spine. If you experience chronic back pain, running may not be an option.

How Running Can Reduce Back Pain

Running can remedy or reduce some lifestyle causes of back pain. Obesity is a major contributor to back pain, and running is an excellent way to lose weight. A sedentary lifestyle can also cause back pain, by allowing the core muscles that support the spine to lose strength. A study published in the December 2009 issue of “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism” found that running activated trunk muscles as well as core-specific exercises. Stress, anxiety and depression are also contributors to back pain, causing the muscles of the lower back to lock up. Exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress.

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